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How to Build a Low-Cost Greenhouse with PVC Pipes

Updated on April 05, 2016

Uplifting Living Standards of People

Here below are the steps on how to build a greenhouse with PVC. The choice of PVC piping material as used in electrical conduits and water pipes is specifically targeted to low income people in developing countries since the PVC materials are inexpensive and readily available there. A greenhouse is ideal for growing crops in those areas where people live and water is a scarce resource. With a greenhouse, one can grow crops such as peppers,  aubergines, tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage, spinach, kales, French beans, peas, herbs, etc, etc which should go along way in uplifting the living standards of the people as they can feed on the crops they have grown as well as sell the produce to other markets to earn some extra revenue.

Greenhouse Building Codes

Greenhouses can be setup just about anywhere only if your local building codes allow this. If your land title deed is classified as ‘residential’ or ‘commercial’, you will need to get permits from your local authority and environmental protection authority. If your land title deed is classified as ‘agricultural’, you do not need any permits and you are encouraged to go ahead and put up greenhouses for intensive production of your crops.

How to Build a Greenhouse with PVC - Greenhouse Construction for Low Income People
How to Build a Greenhouse with PVC - Greenhouse Construction for Low Income People

Define the Greenhouse That We Need

We first define what we need as follows:

1. A greenhouse that will withstand average wind speeds of 15 knots and winds that may gust all the way up to 50 knots.

2. A greenhouse that will withstand heavy rainfall of 50mm per hour

3. A greenhouse that is easy to build and will fit within a budget of $350

4. A greenhouse that for the most part will be built using locally available materials of PVC pipes which are cheap and readily available even in remote places of developing countries.

Greenhouses Made With PVC Pipes

PVC Electrical conduits and PVC pipes are usually produced commercially in maximum length of 20 feet which is equal to 6.1 metres. That is the maximum length of PVC pipes you will find in most hardware stores. For a greenhouse to be constructed from PVC pipes and be strong enough to withstand rough weather, and be most economical in terms of space, it should have a base width of 12 to 14 feet. We shall make ours to have a base width of 14 feet which is equal to 4.3 metres; – the base length of the PVC pipes’ greenhouse can be made as long as you may wish. The other thing is that the greenhouse should have a door tall enough for you to fit. Our greenhouse will have a door of 2.1 metre in height.  

Base Width of the Greenhouse

We shall fold the PVC pipe so that it will curve upward like a half circle with a diameter of 4.3 metres.  The diameter of 4.3 metres will be the length of the base width of our greenhouse. This PVC pipe arc will be supported by the frame of the door as shown in the diagram below.

Base Width of the Greenhouse - Determine where the door frame will support the PVC pipe arc.
Base Width of the Greenhouse - Determine where the door frame will support the PVC pipe arc.

Some Mathematics

Looking at the diagram above, the radius of the half-circle is 14/2 equals 7’ which is the hypotenuse of the triangle shown. The height of our door is 6.75’ (equals 2.1 metres) which is the height of the triangle shown. We want to calculate the base of that triangle using Pythagoras theorem.

The square of base = (2.15 x 2.15) – (2.1 x 2.1) = 4.62 – 4.41 = 0.21

Length of base of triangle = square root of 0.21 = 0.46

4.3 = (2 x Y) + (2 x 0.46)

Y = (4.3 – 0.92)/2

Y = 1.69 metres which is equivalent to 5.55 feet

Width of the door = 0.46 x 2 = 0.92 metres equals to 3.0 feet

Choosing a Ground Site

Get a ground site which is at least 14 feet in width and with a length of at least 20 feet. The length of your greenhouse should be determined by how long you want it to be. The site should be free from the shading of trees and buildings as they will obstruct the lights that go into the greenhouse. Make sure the site chosen allows for good drainage and it’s not mash or soggy. Prepare it as you would prepare a garden so that you do away with weeds as weeds can latter become a big problem in the greenhouse.

Marking the Ground

By use of a measuring tape and wooden sticks, mark the ground as shown in the diagram below.

Greenhouse - Marking the Ground with a measuring tape and wooden sticks.
Greenhouse - Marking the Ground with a measuring tape and wooden sticks.

Get Yourself Some Tools - a Hacksaw and a Crowbar

Once you have finished marking the ground, get yourself some tools namely a hacksaw for cutting timber (lumber) and PVC pipes, a crowbar for digging holes on the ground and a steel file or abrasive paper for which you will use to smooth the sharp cut ends of timber and PVC pipes. These sharp ends of timber and PVC pipes if not smoothed out can tear the greenhouse polythene sheet which is expensive.

Build a Greenhouse - Get yourself some tools - a hacksaw and a crowbar
Build a Greenhouse - Get yourself some tools - a hacksaw and a crowbar

Use Crowbar to Dig Deep Holes on Ground

By use of a crowbar, dig four 2 feet deep holes as shown and marked in the ‘ground markings’ drawing above. You should then have bought the following:

1. 4 pieces of 4”x 2” timber each with a length of 2.71 metres (allow an extra 0.2 metres for error which you can cut or dig more deeper if its too much)

2. 2 pieces of 4” x 2” timber each with a length of 0.92 metres (allow an extra 0.1 metres for error which you can cut if its too much)

Key Support to Entire Greenhouse Structure

Place the four pieces of timber in each of the four holes such that each is 2.1 metres above the ground. Take care to reduce that height by about 2” as you will be placing another timber bar with a thickness of 2” on top of the four timber posts. Put the soil back on the holes and make it firm so that the posts will be strong and firm. It is however important to ensure that the part of the timber that is dipping in the soil is treated with fungicides or used engine oil to protect it from being damaged by insects. Using 4” nails, fix a 0.92 metres long timber bar on top of the two posts on each of the front and back sides. By use of a hacksaw, cut the end of the post where the horizontal bar is fixed to the vertical post. Cut it from the outer side such that you will cut a wedge that is 1” deep and 1” wide as in B, shown in the diagram below. The cut part will be the support for the 1.5” thick Sch 40 PVC pipe. This will now be the door frame which will act as the key support to the entire structure of your greenhouse. Latter on, as you grow your crops in your greenhouse, you will find the two door frames very useful as support for strings that you may add for support to your crops inside the greenhouse.

Building Cheap Greenhouse - fixing the door frame to fit with PVC pipes
Building Cheap Greenhouse - fixing the door frame to fit with PVC pipes

Buying PVC Pipes for the Greenhouse

The roofing PVC pipes are 1.5” thick and 20 feet long. The spacing between one roofing arc pipe and the next is 3.5 feet. The length of our greenhouse is 20 feet. This means we need 7 pieces of 1.5” thick PVC each 20 feet long; so we need to buy the following.

1. 7 pieces of 1.5” thick PVC each 20 feet long.

2. Add 2 more pieces of 1.5” thick PVC each 20 feet long for the two horizontal lengths.

3. The two horizontal widths will need 2 pieces of 1.5” thick PVC each 14 feet long.

4. Buy 7 pieces of 1.5” thick PVC pipes each 3.5 feet for use at the top as shown by E and F in the greenhouse plan below

5. Buy one tube of PVC glue

6. Buy these items from your local hardware store that is dealing with PVC electrical conduits or PVC water pipes. Buy the PVC pipes that are gray in color. When you are in that PVC store, buy the PVC glue from there.

PVC Connectors

PVC pipes have connectors that are used in extending the pipes or in curving and connecting the PVC pipes round corners. The same are available in PVC conduits. When you are using 1.5” pipes, you connect the pipes using 2” PVC connectors. Check for the corresponding sizes for your pipes with your dealer.

Build Cheap Greenhouse - PVC connectors you will need.
Build Cheap Greenhouse - PVC connectors you will need.

Buying PVC Connectors and Ground Stakes

You will need to buy the following connectors and ground stakes:

1. 4 pieces size 2” 3–way PVC connectors for the four corners as shown by C in the greenhouse plan shown below.

2. Another 2 pieces size 2” 3-way PVC connectors for use in the two top ends as shown by F in the greenhouse plan shown below

3. 5 pieces size 2” 4-way PVC connectors for the 5 top connections as shown by E in the greenhouse plan shown below. You can substitute each of the 4-way connector by two T- connectors if the price is lower for the two.

4. Buy 14 pieces 12” long ground stakes/ground anchor for holding the horizontal PVC pipes firmly on the ground, or you can improvise yours locally by using wood or timber. Below is an image of a ground anchor that you can have a look at to fabricate yours.

5. Buy 0.25 kilogrammes of assorted nails 1”, 2”, 4”, and 6”

Greenhouse - Ground stakes or anchors that you can buy or improvise by fabricating similar ones from local waste materials.
Greenhouse - Ground stakes or anchors that you can buy or improvise by fabricating similar ones from local waste materials.
Greenhouse -Laying the PVC Pipes and Stakes on the ground.
Greenhouse -Laying the PVC Pipes and Stakes on the ground.

Laying the Ground PVC Pipes and Stakes

Now lay the ground pipes as illustrated in the diagram above and do not forget to include the appropriate PVC connectors at the right spacing. Then fix the ground stakes but give room for final adjustments once you are through with fixing the greenhouse’s roofing PVC pipes.

Fold the front PVC pipe as shown in the drawing and fix it to the 3-way connectors on the ground. By use of nails, fix the pipe in position G so that the pipe is firmly in place. And by use of a file, smooth the tops of the nails so that you do not have sharp end that can cut the PVC polythene sheet that will be put on top. Repeat the same for all the other PVC pipes just as shown in the drawing. Perhaps you may need someone to help you here. Use your ingenuity wherever you can. Finally, you will have everything in place as shown in the diagram below.

Building cheap greenhouse - putting the entire structure in place.
Building cheap greenhouse - putting the entire structure in place.

Make Greenhouse Door and Windows

After this you need to make the greenhouse door and greenhouse windows. You will need to buy cheap and thin timber size 0.25” thick by 2” wide that will fit the dimensions of the door which are 6.75’ x 3.0’. Total length of this timber should be (6.75 + 6.75 +3 +3) x 4 equal 78 feet since the door and window will needs double timber, with the UV protected polythene sheet being placed in between.

Build cheap Greenhouse - Making Greenhouse Door and Windows.
Build cheap Greenhouse - Making Greenhouse Door and Windows.

Use UV Protected Polythene on Doors and Windows

Cut the timber to fit the size of the doors taking into consideration the thickness of the outer frames of the doors which we had fixed earlier on. Cut the UV protected polythene sheet equal to the size of the frames made, and superimpose the polythene sheet in between the two frames, and by use of small nails or screws join frames and UV protected polythene to make a door. Do the same for the windows. Fix the door to the greenhouse supporting posts/frame using small sized hinges. The door should be fixed on the front side of the opening. On the rear side, put two widows (one on top of the other) instead of putting a door on that side. Two windows will give you a better flexibility in controlling the humidity and temperature inside your greenhouse.

Snap Clamp - use snap clamps to attach the UV protected polyethylene to the PVC pipes.
Snap Clamp - use snap clamps to attach the UV protected polyethylene to the PVC pipes.

Snap Clamps

Before you cover your greenhouse with the UV protected polyethylene, you need to have enough snap clamps. You will use snap clamps to attach the UV protected polyethylene to the PVC pipes. Below is a picture of a snap clamp. You need to buy about 100 pieces of these from you PVC hardware store or you can make your own. By using a short piece of a 1.5” pipe, just cut out horizontally about 1/3 of the 1.5” PVC pipe and the remaining 2/3 part of the pipe can be used to attach UV protected polyethylene on 1.5” PVC pipes. But you have to ensure the cut edges are smoothed to remove any sharp end that can tear the UV protected polyethylene. It is however recommended you buy better ones from the manufacturers rather than making your own which may not work well as you would want.

Buying UV Protected Polyethylene Sheets

To complete building your greenhouse, you need to cover it with a UV protected polyethylene sheet. There are those UV protected polyethylene sheets which are 4 mil and will last for 3 years. And there are those UV protected polyethylene sheets which are 6 mil and will last for 4 years. The 6 mil UV protected polyethylene sheets offer better value for money. Our green house has a top surface area of 20’ x 20’ equal 400 square feet. We need to add an additional 30% to cover the front and rear sides, the size that will hold it to the ground and wastage. This means we need about 520 square feet of UV protected polyethylene sheets.

UV protected polyethylene sheets are usually sold in width of 24 feet and you are charged per one foot length of the 24’ wide sheet. A sheet of 4 mil will cost about $2.5 per feet and a sheet of 6 mil will cost about $3.0 per feet. If we divide 520 by 24 we get 21 feet. This means we need to buy 21 feet length of the 24’ wide sheet of UV protected polyethylene for the size of our greenhouse. At the price of $3.0 per feet, we should be prepared to spend $63 on UV protected polyethylene sheet for our greenhouse.  You will buy UV protected polyethylene sheets from your local stores that are dealing with greenhouse, polythene, plastic and insulation supplies.

Constructing Greenhouse for Low Income People - Your your UV protected polyethylene Greenhouse is finally in place
Constructing Greenhouse for Low Income People - Your your UV protected polyethylene Greenhouse is finally in place

Laying the UV Protected Polyethylene Sheet on the Structure

When you attach the PVC pipes with connectors, you do not use the PVC glue. This is because you want your greenhouse to be easy to dismantle as you may in future need to move your greenhouse to another site. The PVC glue is hardly used here, only in a few instances where you may fall short of a PVC pipe length and you may need to extend the pipe with an additional short pipe. Lay the UV protected polyethylene sheet appropriately to the structure you have built and attach it firmly to the pipes using snap clamps. Your ingenuity and flexibility is called upon here. The UV protected polyethylene should be firmly straightened up without leaving sinks that can hold water (or snow) when it rains. And finally you have your UV protected polyethylene in place. Leave about 2 feet of the excess UV protected polyethylene covering on the ground which should be covered with soil or bricks to secure your greenhouse in place. This should be done after you have done the final tightening of the ground anchors.

Recapping What You Need To Buy To Construct a Greenhouse for Low Income People

We now recap what you need to buy to construct a Greenhouse for Low Income People. The prices indicated are approximate based on living standards in developing countries.

(click column header to sort results)
Quantity  
Item Description  
Unit $ price  
Total $ Amount  
4
4"x 2" timber each at a length of 2.71 metres @ $1/metre
2.71
10.84
2
4" x 2" timber each at a length of 0.92 metres @ $1/metre
0.92
1.84
8
1/4" x 2" timber each at length of 2.71 metres @ $ 0.1/metre
0.27
2.17
8
1/4" x 2" timber each at length of 0.92 metres @ $ 0.1
0.09
0.74
9
1.5" thick PVC pipes each 20 feet @ $ 0.2/feet
4.00
36.00
2
1.5" thick PVC pipes each 14 feet long @ $ 0.2/feet
2.80
5.60
7
1.5" thick PVC pipes each 3.5 feet long @ $ 0.2/feet
0.70
4.90
1
tube of PVC glue @ $4.0
4.00
4.00
4
2" 3-way PVC connectors
3.10
12.40
5
2" 4-way crosses PVC connectors
4.20
21.00
12
2" T-way PVC connectors
1.50
18.00
14
12" long plastic ground stakes/ground anchor
1.60
22.40
1
1/4 kilogrammes of assorted nails
1.00
1.00
100
1.5" Snap Clamp 4 inch long for 1-1/2" PVC pipes
0.50
50.00
21
24' wide 6 mil UV protected polyethylene @ $3.0 per feet
3.00
63.00
 
Total cost of materials
 
253.88
Cheap Greenhouse - Recapping What You Need To Buy To Construct a Greenhouse for Low Income People

A Greenhouse for $253.90

The materials to build the 14 feet by 20 feet Greenhouse is $253.90. This cost can be reduced by making some of the items yourself. Things such as snap clamps and ground stakes/ground anchors can be made from waste materials which you may get free from your backyard or whatever. Investing $253 for a greenhouse for the low income people in semi arid and dry areas is worth the prices as they can be able to feed themselves and their families, as well as creating an income from selling the produce produced from their greenhouses.

Banks Do Not Like Poor People, But With a Good Reason

Crude as it may sound - $253.90 is a huge amount of money that can not be afforded by the low income people in developing countries. So what? Should they remain hungry and poor just because they can not afford $253.90? Actually, that is their problem, and it’s our problem too. Banks have all the money people can borrow. Banks makes a lot of profit by lending money to the people. Unfortunately, banks do not like poor people but with a very good reason. If a bank was to lend out small amounts of $253.90, the bank will spend a very high cost per unit dollar in trying to manage such small loans. This means that the low income people have been denied credit by natural circumstances, perhaps beyond their control because they do not have the know-how.

Small Money Transfers Using Mobile Phones for Small People

Vadafone of UK, investing through Safaricom in Kenya, may have proved commercial banks very wrong when they embarked on ‘small’ money transfer using mobile phones. The Safaricom mobile Money, popularly called M-PESA, is a mobile phone application installed on a SIM card that allow users to hold cash account with amounts ranging from zero dollars to a few hundred dollars and that money can be withdrawn anytime, anywhere and can be transferred from one handset user to another, 24/7. Within just a few years, that systems is handling more money than the total amount of money handled by all commercial banks combined in that country – meaning that there is a huge amount of small money that is usually held by the low income people that usually does not find its way to commercial banks.

Get Money from Kiva to Build Your Own Greenhouse

Kiva is a global micro finance whose main aim is to connect people, through lending, for the worthy cause of alleviating poverty to the low income people in the global community. Kiva supporters include corporate such as Paypal, Google, Intel, Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft, Purex, Cisco, Starbucks, etc, on one hand and institutional supporters such as Clinton Global Initiative, Skoll Foundation, Halloran Philanthropies, Draper Richards Foundation, Microcredit Summit Campaign, Microfinance Information Exchange, Unitus global microfinance accelerator, etc, on the other hand. Kiva will lend you money, usually small amount ranging from $100 to $ 1000 for you to improve on any project, such as building a $253.90 greenhouse, for low income people. Kiva’s money lending is free of interest but the money is not free as it has to be paid back. Kiva’s field partners will disburse a loan to you as soon as you may need the loan. Kiva’s field partners are all over the globe, and it may be that person/NGO in your locality. Check Kivas website here if you might be interested in such kind of money.

Staring at the Blue Sky Waiting to Die from Hunger

If you live in some wealthy localities, you may wonder why one should allow himself or herself to go through such a cumbersome system like that of Kiva, but if you reflect again on what goes on some parts of this planet, you may agree with Kiva that to very many people in this world, getting financial credit is indeed a very difficulty experience. When you live in a community where you do not have money, and your neighbor does not have money, and the next person does not have money, there is very little you can do to yourself and your family, other than stare at the blue sky and wait to die from hunger.

The aim of this article was to attempt to give the low income people the know-how on how to build a cheap greenhouse, grow crops to feed themselves and their families, sell some crops to generate fund, as well as find cheap financial credit for small amounts of money ranging from $100 to $1000 which commercial banks are finding very expensive and risky to loan to the low income people. Good luck.

New 2010 Greenhouse 12' X 7' X 7' Large Green House Garden Outdoor

If you are in USA, you can try the “New 2010 Greenhouse 12' X 7' X 7' Large Green House Garden Outdoor” as a start before moving on to make your own greenhouse. This Greenhouse is an easy installation that should take you 5 Minutes to install and no tools will be required. It may cost you $60 at Amazon.

Try New 2010 Greenhouse 12' X 7' X 7'

New 2010 Greenhouse 12' X 7' X 7' Large Green House Garden Outdoor.
New 2010 Greenhouse 12' X 7' X 7' Large Green House Garden Outdoor.

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    • abrarr profile image

      abrarr 6 years ago from USA

      that was quite an info u've given in this hub. a great hub i have read ever. goodluc!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 6 years ago from the short journey

      Good info, but interesting to think through all of the concepts related to your topic.

      What makes sense to us very often does not make sense to another culture. They need more than food. I am thinking of a people group living in one of the most perfect climates on possibly the most fertile land on earth but they almost exclusively eat sweet potatoes. Why? Their explanation is that because they have always done so they see no reason to change. No matter how "good" for them it would be to expand their diet, no matter how easily they could do it, they do not see their need.

      All this is part of a larger problem that they face. They are blinded by a darkness that social scientists tell us we should leave them alone in. We are told that we should not disturb their "culture" even though their diets are inadequate, they continue to have very violent cultural episodes, they are abusive to their women and children, and in great need of education, especially in areas of health care.

      All this is off your topic but your hub provoked my thinking... Your effort here to help needy people groups with their food deprivation is a very good deed. It is something many people most definitely need help with. However, once their deepest need is met, all of their other needs can be met more easily, both individually and corporately.

      This need that would help the needy see and address their physical, mental, and emotional needs? It is the person of Jesus Christ. John 10:10

    • Cedar Cove Farm profile image

      Cedar Cove Farm 6 years ago from Southern Missouri

      Awesome! I'm going to book mark this one. Excellent info!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

      Wow, that is a great idea and it save so much money. Thank you.

    • profile image

      thesis 6 years ago

      green house effect increase every year but our can protect it.

    • RunAbstract profile image

      RunAbstract 6 years ago from USA

      Thank you so much for this wonderful article! The graphicsw are so helpful! Maybe my dream of owning a greenhouse will finally come true!

      Thank you again!

    • allisonray profile image

      allisonray 6 years ago

      Exactly what I have been looking for and more! There are a lot of "ideas" about how to make an affordable greenhouse but your plan is so well thought out. The photos are very helpful. Can't wait to give it a try. Really want to try growing year round.

    • jetta17 profile image

      jetta17 6 years ago

      Really a great article. I can vouch that this style of Green House is very efficient and affordable!

    • Tuesdays child profile image

      Tuesdays child 6 years ago from In the garden

      Very good hub! This is an economical option for people who really want to extend their harvest season. Thank you for the information!

    • profile image

      cabinet hardware city 6 years ago

      Really good hub.

      Thanks for sharing the info

    • leahlefler profile image

      leahlefler 6 years ago from Western New York

      Wow. This is amazing! I really need to do this, because it would fit over a raised bed and keep the deer out. Thanks for an excellent hub!

    • profile image

      Zonua 5 years ago

      This is a very useful material for poverty reduction really...and exactly what I have been looking for. I have been trying to design a project for dry season shade-house farming in a really very hot environment in West Africa. Your piece is so useful. The area I've not got clearly is: 1) the use of "Snap Clamps" and 2)should I want to order the UV protected polythylene sheet (for shade-house farming), could you recommend an address in China I could order this? zekuzoze(at)yahoo.com

    • william.fischer29 profile image

      william.fischer29 5 years ago

      What the great Idea. The information is good.

    • somethgblue profile image

      somethgblue 5 years ago from Shelbyville, Tennessee

      Excellent that is exactly what I was looking for and it goes well beyond just creating greenhouses for the poor as those that believe comet Elenin and the coming polar shift will have dire consequences for the world's food supply. Only those that can produce their own food or learn to eat bugs will have a chance!

    • profile image

      japheth 5 years ago

      This hub is just the best on greenhouses,i'd like to ask,however,won't the pvc pipes break when folded?

    • profile image

      Robin 5 years ago

      Remember at -5 C PVC is 4 times weaker than at 20 C.

    • profile image

      Boydo 5 years ago

      Silly to make a little greenhouse big enough to accommodate walking around in, waste of growing area inside. Put the paths on the outside. Use 10' PVC electrical conduit on 3' centers, 5' width bed, and roll up sides. Mine are 21' long, think one could go to 30' using 3/4" conduit. Those white poly snap clamps are expensive crap. They quickly loose their strength in Seattle's limited sun and will pop off in the first good wind. Better to make your own with 1" conduit. Don't use PVC water pipe. It's not UV stabilized and gets brittle. Conduit cost just a little more and should last decades.

    • profile image

      eden 11 months ago

      hwo to buy this pvc plz email to me : eden_salang@yahoo.com

    • profile image

      RW 7 weeks ago

      The thing most people dont mention about PVC greenhouses, is that PVC + the poly cover do NOT mix well. If they touch, they wear out quicker.

      Sounds like you need a layer between them. Apparently paint doesnt work well on PVC (because of the wax?)

      I'm *thinking* tape may be an option, or I've heard people opening up some hose pipe and wrapping it around (which i presume isnt the cheapest option?!)

      Does anyone have better ideas?

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